Are Social Practitioners and Evangelists Truly Different?

My friend, Alan Lepofsky, has always made this point, “Social people are different.  The rest of the world is not like us.” Ironically, Alan and I get into the most hair-splitting among our pro-social circle of friends, but I’ve come to understand he is absolutely right about this. “We” are a different breed.  The online spirit of generosity, kindness, sharing, transparency, a first-instinct of collaboration is unique to a small tribe that discovered and advocated for social technologies in the enterprise. When we try to introduce these tools to our friends, our family, new clients, other colleagues, it falls flat.  It’s “2.0 adoption” all over again. It’s made me wonder if we truly are different. Are our brains wired differently?  I’d love to test this with a social scientist. My hypothesis is we have a “giving” gene.

My French friend, Cecil Dijoux, whom I’ve come to know via the social web apparently sees the same phenomenon.  In this video, he refers to us as “Asbergers” which he picked up from the Silicon Valley HBO series where it was meant to be “weird.” Of course, Asberger’s is a serious condition on the Autism spectrum, but I grok the sentiment. “We recognize each other by the way we think and talk.”

It’s unusual to want to change the world, or to pursue a purpose with passion at work. It’s counter-intuitive to behave in a way that benefits a group vs. our own self-interest (exclusively).

I’ve always believed there were more of “us” than “them” if only we could get the message out to the rest of the world about the freedom and joys of working socially. Effectively, once you start working this way, it changes your worldview. You become more empathetic, less self-serving. Lately, I’ve become cynical. I never thought I’d lose my faith in humanity to do the right thing, but as the years go by, the more I think I simply just want to connect to the other “giving gene” people.

If you know what I’m talking to about, let’s connect. We may not be able to change the rest of them, but if we add more nodes to our team, we will have meshed together our own social network of like-minded, giving people. And that’s a beautiful thing.

Social Business: Pining for the Fjords!

“I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it…  It’s dead!”

So, which is it dead or not dead?   There is so much confusion in the market about what “Social Business” is, it might as well be a dead parrot (too).  And there is no shortage of people who come at this conversation with a perspective that simply adds more confusion based on their orientation or specific economic agenda.

No one knows this struggle better than I.  I had lost the battle to preserve “Social Business” for its original owner, Muhammad Yunus, who by-the-way is trying to solve global poverty and a Nobel Peace Prize winner, sometime in 2009 in discussions with the social cognoscenti.  My former employer and friends at the Dachis Group had settled on repurposing Social Business to describe the evolving phenomenon, and after I was acquired, I too fell in line eventually rebranding the Council I had created for early adopters of Enterprise 2.0 to become “The Social Business Council.”*   I think the goal had always been to create a singular view for the market, and I supported the direction.  But, even as I was leaving Dachis Group in the summer of 2012, we took a pulse to see how many of the early adopters had fully integrated their internal social collaboration initiatives (collaboration and learning) with their external social media marketing initiatives (sales and marketing), and wished we hadn’t asked.  I knew the number would not be high, but I was literally shocked to see the response was nearly zero.  The actual number was 4%.   The number was so startling that when I presented it at a Jive user’s group meeting here in Texas, people were somewhat alarmed.  So, I repurposed the figure in the report to reflect how many people said they had plans to do it, but currently had not done it.


The reality that surrounds this issue is we are really talking about two different planets that share the same language based on the principles of the early web 2.0 phenomenon and open web.  But, anyone who’s played in both these camps will readily acknowledge that a digital strategist or VP of Consumer Strategy has no idea what social collaboration is inside the enterprise and most likely spends his/her entire day in email, teleconferences, meetings, and ppt.  And, someone who’s running an internal enterprise social network has no idea who the top players are in SMMS (or what that acronym even means).  The problem is becoming somewhat unwieldy, however, because people who do not know better can easily confuse expertise in one area with the other.  Some of the senior enterprise folks in our network are facing career track issues with this right now.  Further, there’s now evidence of attempts at rationalization taking place, trying to shoe-horn the whole shebang into a singular phenomenon.  Nice try, and if it leads to changing the world, we’re for it.

One of our Change Agents, Richard Martin, pointed out that Nilofer Merchant side-stepped the issue quite neatly in her book 11 Rules for Creating Value in the Social Era: “You might wonder why I’m not using Enterprise 2.0 (E2.0) or social business (#socbiz) terminology. Enterprise 2.0 primarily focused on the tools necessary to create information flow, based on the idea that we can do better if we share information freely. Social business (#socbiz) was a term first created by Muhammed Yunus, but more recently has been a popular way to describe the way companies function and generate value for all the constituents (stakeholders, employees, customers, partners, suppliers)—the idea being that we add a social overlay to the existing structural framework. Here, I pose a new question with the notion of Social Era: in what ways can we structure things entirely differently to create more value in the context of our times, to be fast to market, to be fluid in mind-set, to be flexible in how we organize, deliver, and create value?”

She nails it in that “new” question.

We’ll be talking about some of those answers in an upcoming webinar we are doing next week in cooperation with our sponsor partner, Socialcast by VMware. The webinar will provide a reality check on where social is today, but more importantly, will talk about the underlying trends that are driving enterprise-sized businesses to become more network-based and adaptable.  You’ll have the pleasure of listening to thought leaders Simon Terry and Harold Jarche share their insights on why social matters now more than ever before.   Simon will explain how we got here, what the problem is in the market, and Harold will explain ways we can begin to address these problems today.  We’ll cover a few case studies and have lots of time to do Q&A with webinar participants, so please sign up and join us.  We look forward to your participation.

Webinar: Moving Forward with Social Collaboration
Date:  December 12, 2013
Time: 11:00 a.m. EST


This webinar kicks off a series of projects we’ll be doing with Socialcast to educate the market.   We have a lot more in store as we roll into 2014 too.  As always, thanks for your support for the great work we’re doing at Change Agents Worldwide.  You can support us by tweeting (@chagww and #caww) about us, liking us on Facebook, following on on G+, joining our public community on G+, and following our updates on LinkedIn.  Of course, don’t be shy about joining us as well.  Things are going to change in 2014 for new members, so if you’ve been considering joining, now would be a good time.

Last thing –  Deloitte and MIT Sloan Management Review are running a fairly good survey on trying to get to the bottom of some of these issues and to mitigate some confusion in the market.  I highly recommend you complete the questionnaire.   We’re also very excited about Change Agent Jane McConnell’s Digital Workplace results which will be out in early 2014, as well.

See you next Thursday!  And, as always, interested in your comments.


*Sadly, one thing is deader than a dead parrot: The Social Business Council.  Dachis Group shut it down this month.  It was a great resource for many early adopters and fans, and its legend lives on in the halls of Wikipedia if you’d like to update the page.

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Two Surprising Statistics on Social Business Progress in the Enterprise

Over the summer, we conducted a short survey among the Social Business Council members to gauge where large enterprises are regarding their progress introducing social to the enterprise.  The request was made by a Council member who was looking for some hard benchmarking data he could share with his team.

We wanted to answer the question:

“How far along are the leading early adopters?”

The results were eye-opening.  So many of us who track the market are always saying how early we are, how we are just at the beginning of this transformation,  how it could take a decade or so to really start seeing the fruits of our efforts, etc.   But, we really didn’t have a lot of  hard evidence.*  Now we do.

The first eye-opener was where early adopters report they are.

Nearly two-thirds of the companies surveyed (57%) reported that that only 10-20% of their eligible workforce is active on the platform.  The flip side of this statistic is, of course, that there is a lot of room to grow, and it opens up large opportunities for consultants, vendors, and social business advocates to help companies succeed here.

The second big reveal for me was the number of companies who indicated there is no real integration between their external social initiatives (social media/customer outreach) and their internal social efforts (a.k.a. Enterprise 2.0).  It was nearly unanimous: 96% reported there was nothing today that integrated their social business initiatives, although nearly half reported this was on the planning board.

In short, the survey asked 10 simple questions, yet essentially debunked some of the hype that circulates on the social web regarding the state of the market. In essence, the social business phenomenon is real, but all stakeholders vested in the market would be well-advised to exercise some patience in expecting game-changing results.

Dion Hinchcliffe wrote a longer piece on ZDnet with some of his takeaways, and you can download the report here.

*These survey results reflect the progress of  a unique cohort: very large enterprises with more than one billion USD in annual revenue that are actively engaged in a social business initiative.  Smaller organizations may report different results.




Setting Sights on New Heights with 7 Summits!

Snapped a shot of the Marquette crew while walking to the office last week. Thought it was a fitting visual metaphor.

Announcing my new gig today! [Press Release]  I’ve accepted an offer to work for a gutsy startup with big plans: 7 Summits. Based out of Milwaukee and Chicago, this fast-growing team has been #killingit building award-winning Jive communities that succeed on a foundation of strategy and solid user experience to deliver clearly articulated business results.

I first heard about the firm via my friend and ex-Moxie (then, nGenera) colleague, Steve Elmore. Steve had recently taken a position there as VP, Social Business Strategy.  I’ve known Steve for a long while, and he’s definitely one of the handful of my industry friends that sees the opportunity for social business through the same lens I do.  When Steve started telling me about the culture and vision driving 7Summits, I felt like it was kind of a dream come true for both of us if we could both be part of a team that shares our core social DNA.

While I was researching career opportunities in the market, I received a couple of other great offers.  But, during my evaluations, I kept coming back to 7Summits.  I ultimately made the decision on a short list of defining criteria:

Experienced Leadership that Executes with Rigor

7 Summits is exceptionally well-managed.  There is a mature and focused approach to goal-setting and performance that permeates every facet of the business. As a result, the company is on a strong trajectory of organic growth. The founders, Paul Stillmank and RJ Reimers, held executive positions at Manpower, Whittman-Hart, and Accenture and know how to scale a services business. The core focus on business direction, achievement, and results combined with a sincere intention to build a company culture with character and integrity at its core is refreshing and highly attractive.  One of the most impressive indicators for me was the outstanding reputation the company enjoys among the clients I surveyed.  Most especially because the company has done very little to elevate its brand.  In other words, the reputation was earned the hard way with performance vs. promotion.

A Culture Based on Shared Values of Openness and Inclusion

The company is run as a social business.  Content is openly shared on the company’s internal Jive instance and daily stand ups occur to gauge how everyone in the company is doing.  Every voice matters and the company operates as a team. Culture is the single greatest asset to a services company. I learned this first hand in my experience covering the largest IT services players in the 90s.   During the interview process, I perceived a company culture based on group goals, a dedication to excellence, and a genuine concern for the customer. (Fantastic!)  My personal goal is to fit in seamlessly with the team and expose this tremendous esprit de corps to the outside world.  The company culture and story will be a magnet for customers, partners, investors, and talent for years to come.

A Platform for Social Business Advocacy

As a trusted advisor to its clients, the company matches passion about the promise of social business transformation with purpose and provides its clients a roadmap for how to achieve the promised results.  And the “soft” side of social does not get buried in the business of delivery.  In fact, “Enhancing people’s lives” is part of the company’s mission statement.  In other words, this is a company that gets it. Internal social, external social, and everything in-between.  It’s the first dedicated firm in the U.S. I’ve come across whose business is centered exclusively on delivering social business solutions to every corner of the market: Marketing, IT, or any progressive business unit that wants to introduce social capability to operate more effectively.

In short, I look forward to introducing this company and the transformational work it is doing to my regular readers, fans, and friends of social business.  We will be heading to JiveWorld next week and I will be proud to participate in the fun programs the company has in place to galvanize the believers.  (Please let me know if you’ll be there!) Additionally, the company is on a growth trajectory and is recruiting smart talent looking for a new home to exercise their passion for this work that we’ve all come to love.  I encourage you to apply for any of our open positions.  If I know you personally, make sure to drop me a note too, so I can add some texture to your application. You can reach me directly at susan.scrupski at 7summitsagency dot com.  And keep checking the job board.  New positions are going up all the time.



Social Maturity at Scale: From Evangelism to Execution

It takes a village to raise a tectonic shift in the way companies communicate and operate at scale.  No, it will take a network of connected villages.  And it will take  over a decade to get past the early adoption phase for social business transformation inside large enterprises.  A few threads and blog posts are prompting me to write a few thoughts on where we are in the evolution of social business maturity.  The one that most notably hit home for me was Luis Suarez’s Willy Loman, Death of a SocBiz/E20 Evangelist post this week: Dear Social Business Evangelist Where Art Thou?

We discussed Luis’s post internally in the  Council, and it falls on the heels of another conversation we had recently regarding the perception that internal social business transformation is failing or has failed in many companies.

This poll is very informal, and granted, we have a survey bias in that  all Council members are working hard to bring social transformation to their enterprises.  Yet, there are ZERO failures reported and even the 25% of the members who indicated they feel they’re way behind are not “giving up.”  All our members recognize this is a long haul and are putting in place the mechanisms to realize a fully-integrated social business in thought and deed.


Some Council member comments:

“If this is failure, I couldn’t handle success.”

“On the other side of the hype curve is a plateau, not a canyon.”

“No. Not at all. Do we have 100% adoption in the company and every single employee conducting every single work activity in a social way? No.   Have we changed the way a significant number of people in the company (let’s say somewhere between 30% and 50%) look to solve their problems, voice the opinions, raise ideas to places they could have rarely reached before?  Yep. Have we impacted employee engagement scores in a positive way?  Yep.  Is the cost vs. the benefit so prohibitive that is gives execs pause to consider the ROI more closely?  Not even remotely. They are bought in to the value. Are execs sharing openly and daily? Nope.  Some are trying though…some better than others.       Are execs supportive of the conversation taking place and willing to jump in occasionally when the attention level and criticality warrant doing so?  Yep. Can I keep up with the demand of people requesting consulting about ideas on how to leverage “social” in their business areas in ways we never even considered?  Barely.”

“+1 to [Council member] in his comment about changing “measure” to “observe”. I would ask the naysayers if they’ve ever heard about Lean. Social tools and their usage patterns are allowing us to collaborate more effectively and to make work visible so it can be improved. Activities. Connections. Flowpaths. Improvement. These are the four “rules in use”. On a factory floor, improvement comes from the ability to see how activities interconnect to get parts out the door. I would argue that a fundamental, basic problem with knowledge work as most people do it is that it went underground with desktop productivity and email. It is completely invisible. With the use of social tools and their integration into the flow of “real business transactions” (such as Chatter, etc…) – that’s how we make the work visible so we can improve it. That’s where I see value in companies like mine; It is certainly not in, ‘hey ya’ll, we have a blog, documentation wiki, and micro-sharing activity stream so now we’ll be more profitable.'”

“Without our [social software platform], there is simply no way that our corporate culture would have had the major shift it has in the last four years. And that shift has allowed [Council company] to completely transform our business from [a dying model to a thriving one].”

“+1 to [Council member’s] ten-year adoption, as I always see it as our long journey towards a high mountain range. After nearly 2 years of ground works, I consider we are just passing the first base-camp – the “awareness” camp.  We start to see some paths leading us toward the 2nd camp, but not the whole path to the end.. not yet. Yes, we haven’t reached the end and we are not able to measure where we are, but we know we are in progress – step-by-step.”

“This is no different than adoption of a new technology that changes the way we work dramatically, and how we communicate.  I bet that the history of email adoption in the past is no different, and had the same resistance.  Changing the way we communicate, which has been done for decades, and people who have lived for decades in that mode in not going to happen overnight.   When people come to work, they want to be productive, and want to understand how communicating in a different manner will achieve their end goals.  I believe this is at least a 5 year journey… I have worked at multiple companies, and when the top leadership makes a direction change, or wants to align multiple fragmented divisions together, that change takes 5 years or more since it is about changing the culture, how people work with each other, and they want to align themselves to the new strategy.  Also, people changes are made to enable faster traction.  In the social journey, if we don’t give the same importance, have top leadership backing, and put the right people in the right place, the journey will be slow, and organic.  I am a strong believer and proponent of this social journey, and I see success down the line!

In short, the era of evangelism is over and we should all be rejoicing that the suits are showing up.  One of our members said, “I’m sending the suits.”   At the core of the transformation, however, is the ideals that innovator/disrupters like Luis Suarez and many more of my e20 friends have championed from the beginning: transparency, collaboration/sharing, authenticity, and even trust.  Trust may be the most difficult challenge for the 21st century enterprise, and I sometimes wonder if all companies can succeed here.  (See this exceptional post on “Relational Trust” by Peter Stoyko that explains this elegantly.)  But, at the end of the day, the planks of humanizing the enterprise will succeed, along with the commercial interest all profit-oriented enterprises have in generating returns for their stakeholders.

The directive for all evangelists has moved from enlightenment to engagement.  The drive to deliver social engagement at scale is the next crusade.  I’m interested to see the role that gamification companies such as Badgeville and Bunchball will bring to the social business sector, as well as innovative metrics and dashboards that are being developed such as Moxie Software is creating for its clients  that measure and report on business outcomes vs. platform activity.  As the customer marketing (heretofore social media/SCRM) data begins to pour through the pipes in the firewall, the ability to measure and make sense of that social engagement will be even more profound.  The development team here at Dachis Group is building a formidable arsenal of tools and services to measure this kind of engagement at scale, as well.  (Sign up!)  We are still in the early stages of the transformation that so many of us predicted and, to some degree, made happen.  The challenge for every company is to stop trying to homogenize the market and rather celebrate the diversity of approaches that exist to succeeding with social business.  Each enterprise has its unique opportunity to succeed in this space, and it still takes the courage and creativity of the Intrapreneur to identify these opportunities, spur adoption of these new principles, and ferret out the next one.  So, the evangelist’s job has become more serious and less pious.  And that only means we are succeeding and growing, in real business terms. Everybody take a bow. And put on your suit.  This is happening.

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Attributes of a Socially Optimized Business

Once again, I had the great pleasure to work with my colleagues on an XPLANATiON with our Social Business Council members.  We interviewed a core group of our members to identify the attributes that comprise the whole of the socially optimized business.  I think you will agree, the results are fabulous.

Where are you on the course from Start to Social?

Special thanks go out to members @briantullis, @jimworth, @kendomen, @kimberlymahan, @kristenritter, @seanwinter, @dpontefract, @bricejewell, @robcaldera, and Joachim Stroh.